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Feb 14, 2019
Obligatory 'I couldn't find a better thread for this so here we go - mods please move it if there is a better place to re-home it'.

I was thinking for a bit about the parts required for various rides (especially coasters) to function properly and was really curious - why are there only a small amount of manufacturers available for parts, and when a ride manufacturer goes out of business it usually means parts become scarce?

On the surface it'd seem pretty simple - amusement rides are fairly specialized machines and parts manufacturers, if not the same as the ride manufacturers, are probably restricted by economics and proprietary design limitations to produce certain ride parts.

While this may be true for coaster wheels, for example, what's truly stopping manufacturers of similar parts for other industries to make ride components if a park were willing to pay?

Thinking things like lift motors, chains, hydraulic assemblies and motors, etc that are all fairly common items used in other industries.
Couple of thoughts on this:
1. When companies go under, the ones with enough capital left usually get bought out. We've seen this with Arrow, as S&S bought them and since there are still so many operating Arrow attractions, there is a market to keep creating consumables and specialized parts. For instance, S&S still makes wheels for Arrow rides. In Arrow's case, other companies like Vekoma and Chance also make parts that work well on Arrow rides too.

2: After a company does shut its doors, if its not bought out for capital and intellectual property, there is no one to sue if someone did reach out to another company for parts. Even so, for some parts, the original manufacturer may not care. An anti-rollback can be made by any company that does thick steel cutting. I could have made small ones at my previous employer since they had a CNC Plasma cutter. Since parks generally have detailed schematics for things, especially for the trains, they could generally take the part and the drawing for it to a local machine shop and they could replicate it.

3: Lastly, standard things have standard sizes. A 100hp motor will have the same frame sizes and it will be very easy to find new motors that match perfectly. Im working on restoring a 115 year old turntable for a local railroad museum
and the old 25hp motors on that are the same exact size as modern 25hp motors. Chain is the same way. You may have to deal with American vs European standards, but supply should not be an issue. Lookup and you will find so many machine parts that are used on coasters too.
So with end of service life due to parts scarcity, it's actually more likely an economic issue than actual issues with procuring parts?
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Parks are a business. It's always an economic issue. With enough money, you can keep anything running. Heck, if they had wanted to, they could have spent the millions necessary to replace all of Big Bad Wolf's track. Would they have gotten the return on investment from that level of refurbishment on a 25 year old ride? Obviously, Verbolten says they didn't think so. If parts are easily obtainable, it usually makes sense to repair. Machining one off parts, however, is very expensive. When you get to that point, yeah, the economics can become unfeasible. Think about cars. Let's say you have a '69 Camaro. There are tons of parts available, many aftermarket, because it's a popular car to restore. But let's say you have a 1980 Chevette. It's hard to find parts because other than some components used in other cars, nobody's making parts for it. You may not want to spend the money necessary to have a hatchback custom built for it.
You also have the fun stuff with regards to manufacturers contracting out certain aspects of their projects to specialist part companies. For example, up until 2018 RMC had a partnership deal with Velocity for the magnetic brakes and Lightning Rod's LSM lift hill. Two guesses why that's no longer a thing.
You would also be surprised how many components that are either completely or just made up of off the shelf parts. For example, Volcano’s drive system was almost entirely built out of parts from Rockwell Automation/Allen Bradley’s (an industrial and factory automation equipment manufacturer) catalog. In fact, the last few seasons when Volcano was down for an extended period, Rockwell was the one working on the drive not Intamin. Wheels, unless the rim is damaged, are usually just recoated by a company like Maclan. While there are certainly a lot of custom made parts for rides, a large chunk of the parts that can and do fail aren’t as hard to come by as you’d think with or without the manufacturer’s help.
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